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(edited)

(Author's Note: This story is being published mainly due to the encouragement and gentle prodding of a trusted mentor *cough @Alexshy cough*, who feels it is worthy enough to see the light of day.  All blame to me if it fails to meet expectations.  This is a multi-chapter story, and will be updated sporadically.)

 

1. Through the Hoops, Through the Portal


“Please have a seat, they’ll be with you shortly.”

Nodding my thanks to the pony seated behind the ornate desk, I sat down in one of the plush chairs in the empty waiting room. My nerves were evident as I fiddled with the folder in my hands, the enclosed papers containing additional information along with the CV I had previously provided. It was a stroke of luck that I was even able to get this far in the process; from what I had heard, there were literally hundreds of thousands of applications, and that was just from my country alone. Thinking to myself, as I sat in the waiting room at the top of one of the tallest towers in the city, I resolved that no matter what happened today, I would be happy that I had at least made it this far in the process.

*~*~*~*~*

My journey to this place began several months ago. It began innocently enough with reports of strange beings being sighted in different parts of the world. Tales flew about creatures that resembled miniature horses, some with single horns on top of their heads, others with wings and the ability to fly. Naturally, most of these were attributed to vivid imaginations and consumption of the local hallucinogen of choice, and quickly dismissed as fallacy.

It wasn’t until the appearance of a taller equine-like creature, sporting both large singular horn and wings, appeared at the nation’s capital that these sightings were taken more seriously. She introduced herself to the nervous security and law enforcement forces as Princess Luna Nocturnis, co-ruler of a land called Equestria with her sister, Princess Celestia Solaris. After making initial diplomatic contact, both of these “alicorns” (as they identified themselves) were soon addressing the nations of the world at the United Nations building, seeking to establish relations with this strange world their inhabitants had reported visiting in recent times. Some of the more ambitious of the world’s leaders attempted to conquer this strange land with military might. Watching an entire army battalion being essentially wiped from the face of the earth by not an army, but one lone alicorn with a nasty temper, sent the message that these creatures were perhaps not to be trifled with, but rather approached with friendship and kindness.

After a few months, when things had calmed down, the princesses sent forth word that they were considering allowing some humans to live among the ponies, and that those interested should submit an application, along with an accounting of all education and employment, and those that passed initial screening would be contacted for a face-to-face interview. I figured I had nothing to lose, it might be a nice change of pace from the life I currently knew, and you never know what will happen unless you give it a shot. I made my submission and waited.

I received a box in the mail a couple of days later. The box contained a candle, with holder, and a note. The note said to light the candle, and await further communication. I admit, it was a bit unnerving at first to see a candle burn without melting away, and the greenish flame was unlike anything I had seen since I had worked at the copper manufacturing plant. Still, if nothing else, it would have made a nice conversation piece.

Three days later, a scroll popped into existence from the flame and dropped on my desk. I had been selected for an interview, and was given the date, location, and time. So this is really going to happen, I thought. I prepared myself to give the best possible impression I could, and made sure all of the information that they could possibly ask for was correct and in my possession.

*~*~*~*~*

“They’re ready for you now,” the receptionist pony said, indicating a set of large wooden doors. Thanking her, I stood up, straightening my clothing and checking to ensure that everything was as close to perfect as I could manage. Taking a calming breath, I steeled my resolve and knocked upon the doors.

“Come in, please,” a voice called out. I turned the knob and entered, seeing both Princess Celestia and Luna sitting behind an even bigger desk than the one out front. I saw their smiles slip a little bit when I entered, and it took all of my will to keep my own smile upon my face. Well, so much for this, I thought.  Perhaps I’m not what they want after all.

I bowed reverently when I got closer. “Your highnesses, thank you for seeing me,” I said, maintaining a cheerful demeanor.

The princesses both nodded. “Please have a seat,” Princess Celestia said, indicating the chair with her hoof. I sat down, clutching my folder perhaps tighter than I realized. I loosened my grip to prevent damaging the contents.

“As we explained in the scroll we sent,” Princess Luna said, “this phase will further determine which candidates will be selected for our pilot program.  Following the interviews, we will be conducting thorough background checks on every applicant. Are there any incidents that we should be aware of that will turn up in our search?”

I shook my head. “Short of past traffic violations, all of which should have been expunged by now, I have no type of criminal record.”

Luna smiled a little. “Excellent.” She and Celestia looked over copies of my CV. Celestia flipped the pages with her magic. “You’ve held quite a few jobs in your time. Did you not have a clear career path in mind for yourself?” Celestia asked, her brow arched, studying me and my reaction.

I sighed inwardly, hoping it didn’t reflect on my expression. “I had a few aspirations when I was younger, mostly boyhood dreams and the like. I wasn’t able to fulfill them in the manner I wanted to, but I did at least make some effort to realize them. It did take me a while to see what I truly was happy doing, and as you should be able to see, most of the jobs I held had that element in common throughout my employment history.”

Celestia nodded. “I see. And, it isn’t like humans have cutie marks to guide their destiny along, either.” She shifted a few papers. “Do you have your medical history and copy of latest physical?”

“Yes,” I replied, handing her a stack of papers. “These are the results of my latest DOT physical, I hope they’re satisfactory. I also have results from visits with my primary care doctor.”

“Yes, this will do nicely.” Celestia and Luna studied the papers. After a short while. Celestia set the papers down on the desk. “Now, do you have any questions for us?” Luna asked, studying my reactions carefully.

I thought for a moment. “I was curious as to what the overall goals of this program were, and if there was any special criteria you were seeking.”

Luna nodded. “A fair question indeed. Simply put, there have been lots of questions about your world from our subjects, and we thought that by introducing your species into our world gradually, with a few select families, our little ponies could see and talk to you, perhaps soothing fears and learning about you in the process.”

“And while my sister did indicate that we are seeking families to raise human children in our world,” Celestia added, “we are also seeking single individuals so our ponies can get a fuller picture of how humans live and interact.”

Slightly relieved at hearing that, I nodded. At least I wasn’t completely out of the running yet. “And you will provide assistance in getting established in Equestria, I take it?”

“Correct,” Celestia said. “A house will be provided for the selected candidates, who will be placed strategically in a town of our choosing. A small stipend will be provided for the first month, after which we expect the candidates to have gained employment and be self-sufficient. Of course, we will assist in a small way if unforeseen circumstances arise.”

“We have gained knowledge regarding how humans in general live,” Luna added, “and to that end we are making arrangements to provide for those chosen, so their arrival will not be complete culture shock.”

“Will a list be provided of what can and cannot be transported into Equestria?”

“The chosen candidates will be given a list, yes. Bear in mind that any contraband that is attempted to be smuggled in will result in instant disqualification, at the very least.” Luna looked stern at that last part, no doubt still remembering the attempted invasion. I had no doubt about what might happen in that case.

I thought for a moment. “I believe that covers everything I was curious about.”

Both princesses smiled. “Excellent.” Celestia began gathering up the paperwork. “We have many other interviews to conduct, but we expect the process to be complete within the next three months. Keep your dragon-fire candle burning, and we will send word when we have made our decisions. You will be notified even if you are not selected.” The princesses rose, and I did likewise.

I shook each princess’s hoof in turn, with a slight bow to each. “Thank you again for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.”

“Thank you for coming down today, we will be in touch,” Luna said cordially.

I turned and walked out of the room, shutting the door behind me. I saw two other candidates waiting as I said a quick thank-you to the receptionist and headed for the elevator for my ride to the ground floor. My mind wandered while waiting for the elevator to arrive, and thought about what it would be like to start over again in a completely different world. This was much different from a cross-country move, which I had done twice before, once east-to-west, and once north-to-south. I would be a complete outsider, a foreigner in a foreign land, learning new customs and way of life. I began to wonder if I was indeed over my head, and up to the task. The ding of the elevator interrupted my thoughts, and I stepped inside for my journey back to the lower levels.  No sense fretting about it now; it wasn’t even guaranteed I’d be selected for the program.  The doors slid shut, and the elevator took me back down to the ground floor.

*~*~*~*~*

Six months came and went, and still I waited to hear word about the aftermath of the interview. I had figured they would have been swamped with applicants, each seeking their own place in history – after all, how great would it be to lay claim to being chosen to live in an entirely different world? That’s a science- fiction fan’s dream come true. Because of this, I figured the selection process would take a longer time than what could be counted as ‘normal’ by Earth standards. My daily routine continued, and I even started to bank some extra money and pay off my debts. It wasn’t because I had it in my head that I would be chosen, rather it was a sound idea and something I should have been doing long before this even took place. At least now, I had added incentive to clean the slate.  Day after day, the dragon-fire candle on my desk continued to burn, but never lost any mass due to melting.

The sun hadn’t even risen fully on that Sunday morning when I heard a loud thump coming from the area near my desk. Grumbling, I stumbled out of bed and threw a pair of shorts on, and walked out to see what had fallen over this time. I was stunned to see a pile of books and papers, standing about nine inches tall, next to the candle. A scroll sealed with wax lay on top of the stack, bearing the seals of both of the princesses – a sun motif for Celestia, and a moon for Luna. Carefully, I broke the seals and unrolled the scroll. It read:

A good day to you,

After a lengthy and careful process, we are pleased to announce that you have been selected for our residency program in Equestria. We had received many applications, and conducted scores of interviews, and you scored within the upper percentile in each facet of our criteria.

In this packet are the papers necessary to begin the citizenship process, along with books and pamphlets for you to read in an effort to prepare you for the customs and lifestyles you will be experiencing upon your arrival. We have also enclosed a list of items that are forbidden to cross into our world, along with recommendations for items you should bring for your own personal comfort.

You have been selected to reside in the town of Ponyville. Proper housing is being secured and will be ready upon your arrival. We have arranged your arrival date for six months from the date of this letter. As our calendars are similar in design and length, we trust this should not pose too great an inconvenience in getting your affairs in order prior to departure. We will also arrange for transportation of your goods into our world.

Once again, we bid you congratulations, and eagerly look forward to welcoming you as one of our newest citizens to Equestria.

Most sincerely yours,

Celestia
Luna

I re-read the scroll to make sure there was no misunderstanding, and that I hadn’t missed a word. Nope, sure enough, it was really happening. Being too excited to go back to sleep, I instead made a lovely celebratory breakfast and coffee, and while I ate, I read through some of the literature that had been provided.


*~*~*~*~*

Six months may seem like a long time, but as I knew from past experience, time had a way of sneaking up on you, leaving you scrambling at the last moment. I was determined to not let that happen. I carefully made a list of things that needed to be done, and their approximate completion dates. I also had to begin the arduous process of sorting through the things that I had collected during my life, and deciding which would come with me and which would be forever discarded. Of all the tasks I faced during that six months, this was perhaps the hardest one of all to complete.  And, as I had expected it would, the actual day of the move came all too soon.

“Here’s the last one,” I said, placing a cardboard box on the tail end of the wagon. Yes, wagon. A rather large wagon pulled by a tall pony. He’s what they call an ‘earth pony,’ having no wings or horn.  He was gray-furred, or at least I guess it was called fur, and had a brown mane and tail. He wore a battered Stetson-style hat on his head, and busied himself positioning the things I brought out of the apartment, securing them tightly inside the wagon.

He had a unique design on his flanks, what I learned from my reading was called a ‘cutie mark,’ and his was of a wagon wheel with a set of wings. He told me the other ponies all called him Longhaul, and back in his younger days he carried goods across the whole of Equestria. Having been a cross-country driver myself, we hit it off pretty well, swapping stories about our lives on the road, and the strange things we’d seen, although nothing I could tell compared with some of the encounters that Longhaul had during his career. I mean, sure, I’d hauled produce and been bonked on the head by crates of broccoli and heads of lettuce when the loads shifted, but at least a gang of ravenous rabbits never attempted to hijack my load.

“You sure that’s all there is?” Longhaul asked, looking over the load as he slid the last box into place. “I was expecting lots more than this, given the stories from the other moving ponies.”

I shook my head. “Nah, I’m only taking the essentials. I figure I’ll be acquiring more stuff once I get settled in.”

Longhaul nodded. “Gotcha.” He secured the load with straps. “So, what’s left to do?”

“Just got to lock up, turn the keys in to the rental office, and then we’re ready to cross.” I stopped and looked around. It was just after noontime, the day was clear and bright but not too warm, and as I looked around, it was finally sinking in that this could be the last time I ever set foot on the world I had known as home. The enormity of it hit me and I felt tears forming I my eyes. I blinked them away quickly and drew a shuddering breath.

I felt a hoof nudge my arm. “Hey, you okay?” Longhaul asked, his voice filled with concern.

I nodded slowly. “Yeah, I’m okay.”  I passed a bottle of cold water over to Longhaul and sat down on the steps leading to the apartment.  “Let’s just take a quick rest before we head out.”

Longhaul took a drink from the bottle, holding it quite well for a creature with only hooves.  Seeing that was going to take some getting used to on my part.  “So, what made you want to leave all of this and come to Equestria?” he asked, adjusting his hat to keep the sun out of his eyes.

It took me a minute to ponder my answer.  “Humans are strange creatures.  We’re always on the lookout for new experiences, wanting to try new things, just to see if we can do them.  Some do this for financial gain, some for the excitement and thrill they get out of it … me, I just thought it would be a nice change, and I really don’t have much here anyway.  Why not see what I could do somewhere else?”

“If that’s the case, then why go somewhere completely unknown?  Staying here and moving to a different town or city would be a change,” Longhaul countered.

“’Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.’  Yeah, it would be a change, but would still be familiar.  And, I suspect after a short while, it would feel exactly the same as it does now.  I wanted to go somewhere completely new and learn it from the ground up — the customs, the inhabitants, the ways to make a living.  I guess it’s more of my last hurrah — do it now before I get too old to do anything.”  Finishing my water, I stood up and walked back into the apartment, taking a careful look around.  After making sure I hadn’t left behind anything I wanted to take, I secured the apartment and walked back outside to Longhaul.  “This won’t take long, I’ll be back in a minute.”

Having turned in my key, I went back to where Longhaul was waiting with the wagon. He had hitched himself up and was ready to get moving. About a month before the move, I bought myself a bicycle and began riding regularly, in an attempt to get used to it as it would be my preferred method of transportation in Equestria. I mounted up and pulled alongside Longhaul. “Okay, let’s head out, we’re losing daylight.” With a mighty tug, Longhaul got the wheels on the wagon rolling and we made our way to the portal.  It was explained in the literature that I received that the portals were an experiment gone awry, which was the reason for the random appearances at various points across the globe. The princesses managed to refine the spell that created them, allowing for more pinpoint placement, which meant that when the day arrived for the move, there was a portal waiting along a quiet side road not far from my apartment. All the better from a security standpoint.

Two stone-faced guards stood by the portal entrance. Longhaul and I slowed our approach, and came to a stop when instructed.

One guard went over to the wagon while the second approached me. “May I see your access papers, sir?” the guard asked in an official tone. I quickly passed the paperwork over to the guard, who took them in his magic and nodded after giving them a cursory glance. “Okay, please wait here while we finish our inspection. Won’t take too long.” The guard returned to the wagon to aid his partner.  Word had spread about one couple that had attempted to smuggle some contraband across the portal. Their stupidity was rewarded with a complete revocation of their citizenship offer and a stint in the Equestrian prison system, before being returned to Earth. I shook my head when I learned about this, wondering just how stupid my fellow humans could be, and cautioning myself to not think too hard about that lest I get an answer that I might not like.

After a few minutes, the guard returned to me and passed my papers back. “Everything checks out. Welcome to Equestria.” He smiled and gave a signal to his partner, who lit her own horn and directed it at the portal entrance.

The portal, which had been a hazy, opaque oval shape framed by a ring of gold, suddenly became clearer. On the other side stood small, modest houses, dirt roads, and just at the entrance, a welcoming committee of ponies. A pony mare with gray hair and glasses stood in front of the group, bearing a nervous smile.

Longhaul let out a low whistle. “Wow, looks like the entire town came out to greet you.  Just remember not to say anything stupid,” he quipped.

I chuckled and gave him a slight nudge. “Guess we’d better not keep anybo—err, pony waiting.”

Dismounting my bicycle, I pushed it along while I walked alongside Longhaul, crossing through the portal slowly. The guards followed, and once we had made it to the other side, the portal vanished without a trace.

Edited by Longhaul
  • Brohoof 2
  • Yay 1

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*hugs* Thanks for making that step, mine friend!

If 't be true thou needst help with Old Ponish, I'm at thy service :LunaMCM:

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3 minutes ago, Alexshy said:

*hugs* Thanks for making that step, mine friend!

If 't be true thou needst help with Old Ponish, I'm at thy service :LunaMCM:

I will be working it in for the next chapter.  I think I'll be okay, but I will ask if I need assistance.

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(Author's Note: This may be edited later, but I did get the go-ahead from my editor for this one.)

2. Settling In


I was quite surprised by the reception awaiting me as I crossed through the portal. It seemed the entire town had turned out to see this strange creature that would be living among them, and I do admit that the prolonged stares were a bit unnerving, to say the least. Most of this was eased by Mayor Mare, as I learned she was called, making a welcome speech and assuring the townsfolk that the princesses had determined I was indeed quite harmless and open to questions about myself and my species. She explained to me that there was another princess, one who lived in this town, who was unavailable today because she was assisting with a “friendship emergency,” but would introduce herself as soon as she was able.

After the welcoming words, she presented me with the key and the deed to my new house, to which the town erupted in applause – as best as ponies could applaud without hands. It sounded more like a subdued earthquake, with the rumbling of many hooves beating on the ground. I smiled, waved, and was immediately assaulted by a pink blur that came out of nowhere.

“Yay! I get to throw a ‘welcome the alien to Equestria’ party and I’m so happy to meet you and I hope we’ll be good friends! I’m Pinkie Pie, it’s super wonderful to meet you!”

I looked back into the wide blue eyes and smiled. “It’s nice to meet you too, Pinkie … now, what’s all this about a party?”

“It’s your party, and we’ll have food and drinks and dancing and you’ll get to meet everypony because I invited the entire town to come meet you and it’s gonna be so much FUN and I can hardly wait for you to get there so we can start the party!!!!” Pinkie exclaimed.

“That sounds great, I’m looking forward to it,” I replied, still smiling. “I do think I should get to my house and get my stuff put in there, as I’m sure that Mister Longhaul would like to go home and rest. After all, it’s been a long day for him, I’m sure.”

Pinkie nodded. “Okie dokie, lokie! When you’re done, come on over to Sugar Cube Corner. We’ll be waiting!” And with that, Pinkie was … I guess it’s called ‘pronking’ … down the road.

A mint-green unicorn and a cream-colored earth pony approached.  “Um, if you’d like some help moving your things, we’d be happy to lend a hoof … or a horn, as the case may be,” the unicorn said.  

“That would make things go a bit quicker, thank you.  That’s very kind of you.”  I told them my name.

“I’m Lyra, and this is Bon Bon. She runs a candy store here in town, maybe you’ll stop by and visit?”

I nodded. “I do have something of a sweet tooth, yes. Okay then, let’s be on our way.” Longhaul gave the wagon a pull, and the four of us set off toward my new home.

*~*~*~*~*

Not being sure what to expect in regards to the house I was given, when we arrived I was quite surprised.  The house was a modest single-story building, with one bedroom and full bathroom, a roomy kitchen, and open living area.  With Lyra and Bon Bon’s help, the unpacking of Longhaul’s wagon took less time than I had anticipated.

Electrical power, from my readings before the trip across the portal, was commonplace in Equestria, but not produced in a form that humans would recognize.  I learned that special crystals were harvested that provided basic electrical needs for homes and businesses, and smaller pieces could even be used for portable items.  Special containment vessels could then enclose the crystal, and conventional wiring would be used to distribute the energy where needed.  This eliminated the need for large generating stations, as the crystals could recharge themselves during non-use times, such as during the day, when solar panels could be utilized.  Seeing power outlets installed in the walls made me feel better, knowing that I could have a place to set up some of the electronics that I had brought with me. But that would have to wait.  There was a party going on and I needed to be there.  Lyra and Bon Bon walked with me to Sugar Cube Corner.

It boggled my mind as to how many ponies could fit into such a  small space, and yet it really didn’t feel all that cramped or closed in.  Food and drinks were set up for the taking, and a local pony DJ provided the music.  Ponies came over to me and said brief words of welcome, the bolder among them engaging in more prolonged conversation.  It was nice to feel welcomed, and as the day passed into night, and the party began to break up, I felt pretty good despite the long day I had.  I made my way home and settled in for my first night’s sleep in my new home.


*~*~*~*~*

The first week passed in something of a blur. I spent most of it just wandering through the town, getting the feel for how it was laid out and where everything was. Thanks to the conversion of my money to Equestrian currency, the savings I had accumulated prior to my move meant that I wouldn’t have to rush to find employment right away, affording me the luxury of being able to explore.

Sometimes, the best way to observe a new land is to just wander around and explore, taking note of the inhabitants, and seeing how they interact with each other.  Which is how I spent the next few weeks, moving through the town and through the markets, always ready with a wave and a friendly hello to anypony I happened to pass.  What worked even better, especially with a population still a bit skittish about the strange being in their midst, was plunking myself down on a bench near the town square and letting the ponies approach me.  When they realized that I wasn’t going to leap on them and do unspeakable things to them, they opened up and even persuaded their friends to come over and say hello to the friendly alien in the town.  By doing this, I was able to make a decent amount of friends and learn even more about the town and pony culture in general, as they learned about human culture and how we lived.  Having a few connections in town aided me greatly in my search for work.  Living frugally, I was able to not go through my savings too quickly, but it was important that I secure a source of bits to replenish what I did spend, and that necessitated gainful employment.

After taking a  few different aptitude tests and going through my employment and educational history, I managed to find day labor, doing odd jobs for some of the ponies in town, and quickly gained a reputation as a hard and diligent worker. I think the chef at the restaurant was surprised the day I showed up as a temporary prep cook, not expecting much out of me and probably figuring he’d have to spend the whole day foal-sitting me. About an hour in, he was quite impressed with my knife skills, moreso that I hadn’t lopped off any major appendages and that I actually knew what a brunoise was, unlike the temp they sent over the day prior, and once the prep was done, he took time to sit and talk with me.   It was an honor for me when, at the start of dinner service, he had me stand and watch as he and his sous chefs plated the dishes and sent them out to the dining room.  I was there longer than I was contracted for, but was happy to stick around as an unpaid commis for the rest of the day and helped them break down stations and clean up at the end of the day.

Days and weeks went on, and for the most part, the ponies were friendly, if somewhat wary of my presence. Understandable, really. Some gangly-looking freak wanders in from another world and one wouldn’t really know what to expect. However, as this was a learning experience for me as well as for them, simply talking with them helped soothe any lingering fears among many of the ponies, and made all of our lives much easier.

*~*~*~*~*

After a day of exploration and a lovely dinner, I sat in my living room reading a book.  As much as the princesses did to ease our transition to this new land, there was still no internet or television, and I did not feel like venturing out to see a play or go to a club.  Instead, I either watched the movies that I had brought with me or listened to music.  Tonight, I opted to crack open a book I hadn’t read in ages, and with no distractions, I felt that perhaps I could possibly notice things that I had overlooked in my previous readings.

I was deeply engrossed in the story when there came a knock on my door.  I got up from my chair and went to the door.  Opening it, Princess Luna smiled at me.  “Greetings, I was doing some observations of the new humans and I noticed you were still awake.  May I come in?” she asked.

“Of course, please, make yourself comfortable,” I answered, stepping aside as Luna entered and looked around.  “May I offer you a drink or a snack?”

“No, thank you, I won’t be long,” she replied.  Her gaze fell upon the book I was reading.  “Tell me, what is this ‘Shakespeare’ you are reading?”

“Oh … he was a famous playwright who lived many centuries ago.  His works are still taught today in our schools as examples of the evolution of our language.”

“Fascinating.” Luna studied the cover again.  “Would you read us a small passage from this book?”

“Certainly.”  Picking up the book, and moving to where I had left off, I began to read:

“Ah, so much interest have I in thy sorrow     
     As I had title in thy noble husband!     
     I have bewept a worthy husband's death,
     And lived by looking on his images:          
     But now two mirrors of his princely semblance     
     Are crack'd in pieces by malignant death,     
     And I for comfort have but one false glass,     
     Which grieves me when I see my shame in him.
     Thou art a widow; yet thou art a mother,     
     And hast the comfort of thy children left thee:     
     But death hath snatch'd my husband from mine arms,     
     And pluck'd two crutches from my feeble limbs,     
     Edward and Clarence. O, what cause have I,
     Thine being but a moiety of my moan,          
     To overgo thy plaints and drown thy cries!”

Glancing up, I noticed Luna staring at me with a look of shock on her face.  “Is…is something wrong?” I asked.

“How … how dost one know the Old Ponish?  ‘Tis the tongue not used now save by mineself, and many years hath passed since I heard it spoken thus!”  Luna was displaying a mix of joy and bewilderment.

“This was how they spoke in Shakespeare’s time,” I explained, “and his works were not translated into the more modern language, but preserved as a historical record of the days past.  I’ve had a fascination with this ever since I started learning about it, and once I learned how to properly read his works, they became more enjoyable to me.”

My vision was quickly obscured by a mass of blue fur as Luna swept me into a hug.  “O, most glorious night!  To hear thee speakest the Old Ponish, truly I do feel mine old self again!”

“Umm … you’re welcome?” I mumbled through the blue carpet covering my face.

“’Twas our sister’s idea to forego the old ways,” Luna said, releasing the hug and allowing me to breathe normally.  “Verily, she did command us to speak in the Modern Ponish.  She sayeth ‘twould make understanding us easier for the humans, yet thou art capable of comprehending our speech, art thou not?”

“Yes, I do understand you, and quite well, but I do agree with your sister.  Not everyone is as well-versed in this way of speaking as I am, it’s mostly those that study these works at length.  I think it’s a beautiful way of speaking, honestly.”

Luna brightened, and looked at me with hopeful eyes.  “Wouldst thou object to visits from us, in which ‘twould allow us to speak in the tongue we are accustomed to?  Thou art free to refuse, of course, ‘tis not a command or royal edict.”

Nodding slightly, I smiled at Luna.  “I would be honored to have you visit.  I’m usually up late unless I have to work early in the morning, and you are always free to stop by.”

Once again, my vision turned a deep shade of blue as I was once again vigorously hugged.  “We accept thy most gracious invitation, good sir!  We shall endeavour to not be a pest; rather, we would engage thee in stimulating conversation and help thee learn about us as much as we will learn about thee.”  She released the hug. still wearing a broad grin on her muzzle.  “We must away, our night is full of tasks that we must complete ere the morn.  We shalt see thee anon, friend!”  With that, she teleported away, leaving me standing in my living room, slightly disheveled from the forceful hugs, and marveling at how I just made a very good friend indeed.

*~*~*~*~*

“Land sakes, young’un, you’ve been at it fer hours now! Git down here and take a rest afore yew bake what few brains yew have left!” shouted the elderly green-colored mare. “Now, I ‘preciate a good work ethic ‘n all, but boy, yer gonna run yerself into the ground workin’ lahk yew do ‘round here!”

“Yes, Miss Smith,” I called down, “let me finish this section and I’ll be right down. I’m almost done here anyway.”

The Apple family have been a steady source of employment for me in the weeks since I arrived in Ponyville. There’s always something to do around the farm, whether it’s planting, harvesting, or just general maintenance on the buildings and tools. I did most of the maintenance work, freeing Applejack and Big Macintosh to handle the day-to-day farming chores. And, if there was something that was a bit beyond my abilities, either one of them would gladly pitch in and help me, teaching me another skill I could use.  From what they taught me, I was able to forgo my day-laborer position and start a business as a freelance handyman.  Supplementing the tools I had with newer tools the Apples helped me obtain from their trusted supplier, I was soon equipped to handle most requests of me

I put the finishing coat of paint on the wall of the barn I was working on, and made my way down the ladder to the ground. It was a warm day, using the standards of the place I used to live. The ponies, however, were constantly remarking on how hot it was, and was going to be for the next few days until the weather pegasi brought in some much-needed showers and cooler weather. I was hired by the Apples to paint the farm buildings, with the goal of getting them done before the rains arrived. I admit, they were shocked when it appeared I would be finishing a day ahead of schedule.

Granny Smith, Applejack, and Mac were sitting on the porch already as I walked up the steps. A pitcher of iced sweet tea sat on a table, along with a selection of baked goods. I nodded my hellos as I approached and sat down, and poured myself a tall glass of tea.

“Ah jus’ don’t know how you do it,” Applejack said, sliding a plate piled high with apple fritters over toward me. “You work sunup to sundown, in the heat, and it don’t seem to bother you at all. Ah gotta say, that’s the quickest paint job Ah’ve ever seen.”

I grinned. “It’s no big secret, really. I got used to working long hours at a lot of my jobs before this, this heat’s rather mild compared to some of the summers in the place I used to live, and I never really got used to taking breaks at work. I’d stop if I needed to for a few minutes and get right back at it.”  I took a long pull from my glass of tea.  “I also had a decent system in place.  Start early in the morning, let that coat of paint dry out in the heat of the midday sun, and put the second coat on to dry overnight.  Seemed to work well and bought an extra day for touch-ups if we need them.”

“Well, Ah’m just glad the paint’ll be dry before that rainstorm gets here. One time we did this, me ‘n Mac, we had just finished when Rainbow Dash and the weather team brought in a gullywasher of a storm! All that paintin’ and hard work, gone in a flash!” Applejack shook her head and looked skyward. “Speak of the devil. We got incomin’. Guess she smelled the fritters.”

I followed Applejack’s gaze to a small blue dot, rapidly growing bigger, a prismatic tail flowing behind. I took a couple of apple fritters, and placed them on a plate in front of me before Rainbow Dash hovered near us.

“Hey, AJ, Mac, Granny,” she said to each in turn before turning to me. “Dude, glad I found ya. Fluttershy was wondering if you could come by her place and fix one of her outside doors. Guess one of her animals pitched a fit and broke something.”

I nodded. “Shouldn’t be a problem. Let me see what’s going on.” I pulled my calendar book from my pocket and flipped a few pages. “AJ, you gonna need me tomorrow for anything?”

Applejack thought for a moment before shaking her head slightly. “Nope, assumin’ the touch-ups ain’t much and can be done today, Ah reckon we’ll be good until the storm passes. Ah’ll check with ya after that.”

I nodded and made a note in the book. “All right then, I can head up there first thing tomorrow morning. Can you let her know for me?”

Rainbow Dash folded her forehooves in front of her. “I probably could… if you pay the fee first.” She grinned a sly grin.

Rolling my eyes, I retrieved one of the apple fritters I had set aside. I broke it in half and offered it to her. Rainbow shook her head. “Full fee or forget it.”

I sighed, and held out the unbroken fritter. She grinned, and happily ate. When she finished, she gave a flap of her wings and moved slightly away from the porch. “Okay, I’ll let her know for ya. What time?”

I thought for a minute. “Tell her around seven-thirty. That’ll give me time to look at it and if I need parts, I can get them early enough and not have to tie up her whole day.”

Rainbow nodded. “No problem, dude. Okay, I gotta get back to work, we’re getting things ready for that storm. Seeya!” And with a mighty burst of energy, she streaked away into the sky.

Applejack sat, thinking. “She coulda taken a fritter from the big plate of ‘em we had. Why did she have to take one of yours?” she asked.

I shrugged. “She says they taste better that way,” I replied, nibbling on one of the fritter halves.

*~*~*~*~*

The sun was barely over the horizon when I approached Fluttershy’s cottage on the hill. Various types of small animals scurried about in the early- morning light, most ignoring me, others moving out of the way of my bicycle. Thanks again to the Apples, I had a towable wagon on the back to carry my tools and other supplies. It also made carrying my groceries home a much easier task.

I remembered Fluttershy from Pinkie’s welcome party for me. I saw the yellow pegasus sitting in the corner, as if she was afraid to approach me or anyone that was there. I went over and introduced myself, and she told me in a very soft voice, barely as loud as a whisper, that her name was Fluttershy. I could see she was uncomfortable, so I told her it was nice to have met her, and maybe we’d see each other around town. A couple of days later, I received a lovely note from her, thanking me for not forcing her to socialize and respecting her space.

I parked my bike and went to the front door. I knocked gently. “Miss Fluttershy? I’m here to look at that broken door,” I said in a gentle voice.

The door creaked open a little bit, and a big turquoise eye looked me over carefully. “Oh, my… you’re a little early. Please, come in,” Fluttershy said, opening the door wider. I quickly stepped inside.

Being mindful not to tread on any of the smaller inhabitants of her home, I followed Fluttershy inside.  She led me to a door that had been hastily braced in its frame. I could see small bits of wood on the floor, near the frame. Unbracing the door, I looked at the doorframe where the hinges connected. The screws had been pulled free from the wood, stripping the holes and making them unusable. The hinges on the door were still connected.

“Um … yesterday, Harry was due for his annual physical, and when it came time to give him his booster shot, well… he got a bit scared and tried to run, but slammed into the door.” Fluttershy looked down at the floor. “I’m awfully sorry about having to bother you like this,” she said softly.

I smiled reassuringly. “It’s not a bother, it’s what I do for a living.” I glanced around to see a brown bear with bandages around his muzzle, looking embarrassed. I turned my attention back to the door. The hinges had their screws laid out in a zig-zag pattern, instead of a straight row. I took a screwdriver from my tool pouch and removed one of the hinges from the door. Flipping the hinge opposite from how it had been installed, I saw that the screw holes lined up perfectly over fresh, untapped wood.

“The good news is,” I said to Fluttershy, “this is a fairly easy fix. If there’s things you need to do, go on ahead and I’ll find you when I’m done.”

She sighed with relief. “Oh, that’s wonderful news! I’m sure Harry feels better hearing that, don’t you, Harry?” The bear nodded enthusiastically.

“Okay then,” I said, “let me grab some more tools that I’ll need and get to work.”

About a half-hour later, with some generous assistance from Harry, who was more than happy to help atone for his misdeed, I packed my tools away in the wagon. Fluttershy stood with me in the cool morning air. “Thank you again for coming out this way … um … I don’t know how much this is going to cost me, but, um...”

I shook my head. “This one’s on me today. It was a simple fix, and I didn’t need to buy anything new. It’s what I usually do with things like this that don’t take too much time or materials.” Which was true, given the number of colts and fillies coming up and asking me to fix a toy or a scooter of theirs, although I suspected it was also to watch me use my hands as I worked.

“Well, um, can I at least offer you a cup of tea before you go? Maybe we could sit and talk for a bit, since we didn’t get to at the party when you arrived...”

“I think that would be lovely,” I said, checking my watch. “I have an appointment this afternoon but my morning is quite open. After you, please,” I said, letting Fluttershy lead the way back to her cottage.

“If I may ask, who is your appointment with?”

“I’m supposed to be meeting Princess Twilight at her palace. I admit, I’m a bit nervous about it.”

“Oh, there’s nothing to be nervous about,” Fluttershy assured me. “Twilight is one of the nicest ponies I’ve met. I think you two will get along great.”

“I know, I shouldn’t worry,” I sighed, “but it still feels like getting called into the boss’s office. You can’t help but wonder what you might have done wrong.” I straightened myself up and smiled to Fluttershy. “Let’s have that tea and chat.  I’d love to learn more about what you do.”  She smiled, and we walked back inside.

Edited by Longhaul
minor revisions as suggested by editor.

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